Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Fascinating manmade marvels you can visit

The itinerary for many of
 our trips has taken Larry and me to see, explore, and marvel at the wonders of nature—steep walls of the Grand Canyon, glistening glaciers of Antarctica and Alaska, rugged mountains of Italy and Switzerland, massive water pouring over Victoria Falls, the amazing migration of wildebeests in Africa, the Great Barrier Reef, and so much more. Our world is a treasure trove of  incredible beauty and inspiration created by forces beyond human control.

But man has an incredible ability to think big, to design and engineer sites that are marvelous in their own right. Here are a few that we have enjoyed on our travels and that you might want to visit, too.

Taj Mahal—This imposing marble structure is actually much more beautiful than any picture can convey. Precious stones delicately inlaid in carvings throughout the stately edifice create possibly the world’s most outstanding tomb. Constructed by a 17th century emperor of India in memory of his beloved wife, it took 20,000 craftsmen almost 20 years to complete. Go early in the morning before crowds arrive, and you might see its reflection in the water feature in front—an absolutely stunning sight.

An enduring symbol of Rome and the imperial era, this structure was built almost 2,000 years ago to host different types of entertainment. It’s an enormous structure built to hold 73,000 spectators. Famously missing a small section of its fa├žade, the imposing venue has survived earthquakes and fire. Allow plenty of time to explore the many entrances, rooms, and seating spaces. A smaller, but still impressive, version is the Colosseum in Verona, Italy.

Pyramids of Giza—How exactly these pyramids near Cairo, Egypt were constructed is still a mystery. Consider that the building blocks are heavy granite and limestone boulders weighing up to 60 tons each, and the Great Pyramid stands 454 feet high. Constructed 3800 years ago, it is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact. Additional pyramids and a bust of the Phoenix are nearby attractions when you visit.

Stonehenge—This is another mysterious structure since historians aren’t really sure what the purpose was for this enigmatic circle of stones. Erected in southern England around 2500 B.C., the prehistoric formation has been thought to be a religious feature, burial ground, astronomical monitoring device, and place for celebrations. Whatever the reason for its construction, the precise layout of these formidable bluestones still attracts visitors who just want to admire the skill of people who carried out this formidable task without modern tools.

Mount Rushmore—Visitors from all over the world flock to see the sculptured faces of four famous American presidents—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. More than 400 workers helped carve the creation of sculptor Gutzon Borglum during a 14 year span, often using dynamite to blast through the mountain. It’s a spectacular sight that stands as a tribute to these outstanding leaders of our country—and a welcome testament to patriotism.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Thinking about travel? Now may be a good time to go.

Travel is ramping up. And I’m certainly all for that.  Coronavirus cases, at least in my part of the country, are going down and vaccinations are going up. That’s a good combination, for sure.

Everyone has their own comfort level regarding straying away from home, so do what feels right for you.  But if you’re anxious to pack your bags and get away, don’t worry unnecessarily. Travel can be uplifting, refreshing, and safe.

To that end, I’d like to share some of our recent travel experiences in the hopes that it will help alleviate any lingering fears.

Sunset on beach at Holbox Island, a tiny fishing
village north of the Yucatan Peninsula

We made three significant trips during August and September—with no problems. First, we flew to Mexico for an adventure swimming with whale sharks. Granted, wearing masks in airports and on planes is not exactly pleasant, but we view that as a necessary layer of protection for ourselves and others.

Whale sharks can be 40 feet long. 

After our adventure on a remote island off the Yucatan peninsula, we spent several additional days at an adults-only all-inclusive resort. Larry and I decided to make that a restful part of the journey, so we spent much of the time in our private cabana by the pool (included). The point is that we were away from cities and crowds of people. We wore masks as required when indoors.

Our cabana at the Hyattl Zilara in Cancun.

One of the perks of the hotel where we stayed was providing COVID tests for guests from the U.S. (required for us to re-enter the country). The hotel also offered an insurance policy that would cover accommodations and meals if we should test positive and have to quarantine for 10 days. Since we had already been in Mexico for a week prior to checking in at the resort, we decided to purchase the $29 policy.

Hiking in the Dolomites, mountains in northern Italy

Our trip to Italy had been cancelled and scheduled three times, so when it looked okay to go late August, we said yes. Coronavirus levels have been lower in northern Italy where we were going, and our activities were mostly outdoors, which seems to be the key to traveling both internationally and domestically. Airport and airline mask mandates were a little more challenging because of the time factor, but we survived.
The dog is trained to find truffles and
bring them back to its owner.

We hiked in the Dolomites and took walking tours, as well as hunting for truffles, visiting a hazelnut farm and wineries—all outdoors. Most meals were consumed al fresco in pleasant weather and lovely surroundings. Again, we avoided crowds. Even the two train rides on our itinerary were not really crowded. At a few places we were asked to show our vaccination cards, and masks were required indoors. Complying was only a minor inconvenience for the privilege of visiting this beautiful country.

Hot springs at Lake Garda near Verona, Italy 

At the end of September, we flew (masks required again!) to Colorado to see fall colors and visit with friends. Once we got our sanitized rental car, we were felt free to come and go as we pleased. We stayed in a hotel with full kitchen and prepared many meals there. A VRBO or Airbnb would provide similar accommodations. With pleasantly cool weather we were happy to hike, take walks and drives, and enjoy colors of the season.
Golden aspens in Colorado

You get the idea: Avoid crowds, do outdoor activities, and comply with any mask rules at your destination. Plan carefully, and your trip can be just as safe as it would have been two years ago.

With the holiday season approaching quickly, consider traveling by mid-November--or wait until January. Not only will you have more options, but prices will be lower and availability better. Then start perusing catalogues and online travel sites to plan an amazing vacation in 2022!

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier